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Was Jesus really forsaken on the Cross of Calvary?

by Robert Randle  
4/07/2010 / Devotionals

There are very few believing Christians who read their Bible on a regular basis that are not familiar with the famous last words of Jesus of Nazareth spoken just moments before His death on Calvary's Cross, as recorded in MATTHEW and LUKE'S Gospels; but is that really what the Savior uttered and what implications does it carry for those Christians who faced martyrdom for their "Faith?"

If our Heavenly Father would turn His back on His One and only-Begotten Son, who was sinless, in His hour of greatest trial, then what does this say about God's continual presence or rather withdrawal from us when we need Him the most? It is therefore prudent and necessary to reexamine the Scriptural narrative and other references to give us reassurance and consolation that indeed, prove that our God is most trustworthy and will never abandon His children. Let's take another look at Matthew's account of the site of the Crucifixion at Golgotha Hill [Place of a skull].

Matthew 27: 46
And about the ninth hour [3PM] Jesus [Yeshua] cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, sabachthani? That is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

COMMENTARY: The first thing that needs to be considered is in translating the Aramaic word sabachthani/shbakthani. In the KJV and other English versions, the word is translated as "forsaken," but this is incorrect. According to the Aramaic Peshitta, and translated by such scholars as Andrew Gabriel Roth, Paul Younan, and the late George M. Lamsa, the word 'sabachthani' should be translated as 'kept' or 'spared.' The Aramaic words which can be translated as "forsaken" or "forget" are taatani (Cp. Psalms 13: 1 {forget}; 42: 9 {forgotten}; 43: 2 {forsake}; 44: 9 {forsake}; 60: 1 {forsake}; 78: 7, 9 {forsaken, forgotten}; 103: 2 {forget}; 119: 141 {forget}), or nashthani [forsake/forget-Cp. Genesis 41: 51]. Even in Hebrew, the word translated as "forsaken" is either 'azab or ntash.

If the LORD Jesus/Yeshua really meant to convey that He was truly forsaken by God, then any one of these Aramaic or Hebrew words, or their roots, would have been used instead. Jesus told His disciples in John 16: 32, these words: "Indeed, the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own town, and will leave me alone. And yet I am not [never] alone, because the Father is [always] with Me." If God did abandon Jesus because he bore all the sins [imputed/symbolically] of humanity, then when did God reverse this action; sometime between 3PM on that day and 72 hours later when He raised Jesus from the grave?

What was the Father's attitude toward the Son?
Matthew 3: 17
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Jesus tells His disciples in the following:
Matthew 28: 20b
"And lo, I am [will be] with you always, even to the end of the world [age]."

The Apostle Paul assures believing Christians:
2 Corinthians 4: 9
. . . [we are] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-

The Father's Plan to redeem or reconcile sinning humanity back to fellowship with Him:
2 Corinthians 5: 21
For He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus/Yeshua] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Isaiah 53: 6b, 8b, 9-10a, 12b
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. For the transgression of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked- but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief, when he made His [Jesus/Yeshua] soul an offering for sin.

Doubtless, the sources for the narratives of the crucifixion scene interpreted the Gospels of MATTHEW and MARK based upon the circumstances as they appeared, and used Psalms 22: 1 to buttress their presumptions of someone being forsaken as a literal interpretation; instead of taken as part of a Jewish 'midrash' instead. Here is what the Aramaic Mark 15: 3-4 says: "My God, my God, for this [moment] was I kept!" This is My destiny for which I was born. "My God, My God, for what purpose am I here!" For this very purpose [hour] am I reserved [came I into the world].

The Son says below in the following:
Matthew 26: 53-54
"Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? "How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it [this] must happen thus?"

Hebrews 10: 5-7
Therefore when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come- in the volume of the book it is written of Me- to do Your will, O God.' "
So then, looking at this momentous event from the standpoint of God continually being present with His children as they approach death instead of abandoning them is very reassuring in the final moment before one's last exhalation of 'vital breath' (expiation). And since the Father did not forsake His Son in whom His soul delights in His darkest hour, God also assures those who trust in Him:

Hebrews 13: 5b
For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you (Cp. Joshua 1: 5b)."

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 5, 2010

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